Cauliflower

Cauliflower was very popular in the 70s and was one of the staple vegetables, smothered in white sauce alongside the Sunday roast. Cauliflower cheese was also the rage then. Today, it seems that our taste for it’s more glamorous green cousin, broccoli, is strengthening but let’s not forget its old, maybe paler, yet nutritious counterpart.  Cauliflower is after all God’s gift to cheese sauce and to a good curry for that matter!

CauliflowerIt is a member of the Brassica family of plants, which also includes broccoli, kale, cabbage, turnips and Brussels sprouts. It’s a bit of the odd man out really as it lacks the green chlorophyll found in other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale. This is because the outer leaves of the plant shield the florets from the sun as they grow. It has a compact head (called a “curd”), usually about six inches in diameter that is composed of undeveloped flower buds. The flowers are attached to a central stalk.  Of course when it’s broken apart into separate buds, cauliflower florets look like little trees, something that many children are fascinated by.

The milk, sweet, almost nutty flavour of cauliflower is at its best when it is in season, which is pretty much most of the year now luckily. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and folate, and a source of potassium. Vitamin C is important for a healthy immune system and for collagen building. Folate is important for a healthy nervous system and for healthy blood cells. Potassium is essential for regulating our blood pressure.

Cauliflower also provides us with glucosinolates, which may help to protect our bodies from pollutants and free radicals which can damage cells and tissues.

If you don’t think you will use an entire cauliflower head, ask for half a head or look out for pre-prepared florets in smaller portion bags for your convenience. And get back to some traditional good home-cooking – nothing could be easier or more satisfying than the comforting aroma and taste of cauliflower cheese.

You can try sprucing up some cauliflower dishes with the following suggestions. Keep experimenting!

  • Stir-fry cauliflower with garlic and minced ginger as a delicious side dish.
  • For cauliflower with a vivid yellow color, stir-fry it briefly with a spoonful of turmeric or generous pinch of saffron.
  • Puree cooked cauliflower, add fennel seeds and your other favourite herbs and spices and serve as soup.
  • Because of its shape and taste, cauliflower florets make wonderful crudite for dipping in salsa and dips.
  • Add lightly steamed cauliflower florets to pasta dishes.
  • Raw cauliflower can be added to salads or used for dipping.
  • The leaves and stalk of cauliflower are edible, and can be used in your favourite soup.
  • Cauliflower cheese is a popular side-dish.  If you’re watching your waist line, you can keep the fat content down, by using skimmed milk and reduced-fat cheddar in the cheese sauce.
Nutrition per portion (80g) Calories Fat (g) Sat Fat (g) Sugars (g) Fibre (g) Salt (g) Other
Cauliflower 27 0.7 0.2 2.0 1.4 0.018 High in Vitamin C (34mg)
High in Folate (53ug)
Source of Potassium (304 mg)

Curly-Kale

Kale is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, a group of vegetables including cabbage and Brussels sprouts that have gained widespread attention due to their health promoting, sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

GreenCurlyKaleThe beautiful leaves of the kale plant provide an earthy flavour and lots of nutritional value for very few calories.  Along with broccoli, it is probably one of the most outstanding of vegetables in terms of its nutritional brillance.  It is high in vitamin C, folate and carotene as well as being a source of fibre and potassium.

Like broccoli and cauliflower, kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. Curly kale played an important role in early European food ways, having been a significant crop during ancient Roman times and a popular vegetable eaten by peasants in the Middle Ages. English settlers brought kale to the United States in the 17th century.

Serving suggestions to try….

  • Stir-fry kale with fresh garlic and sprinkle with lemon juice and olive oil before serving.
  • Braise chopped kale and apples. Before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts.
  • Combine chopped kale, pine nuts and feta cheese with wholegrain pasta drizzled with olive oil.
  • The taste and texture of steamed kale makes it a wonderful topping for homemade pizzas.
  • Young, tender kale leaves are a great substitute for lettuce in a sandwich
  • Add shredded kale to stir-fries and use instead of spinach in recipes
Nutrition per portion (80g) Calories Fat (g) Sat Fat (g) Sugars (g) Fibre (g) Salt (g) Other
Curly Kale 26 1.3 0.2 1.0 2.5 0.09 Source of Fibre
High in vitamin C (88 mg)
High in folate (96 ug)
High in carotene (2516 ug)
Source of potassium (360 mg)

Celery

Celery has become a common household staple along with carrots, onions and potatoes.

Its crunchy texture and distinctive flavour makes it a popular addition to salads and many cooked dishes.

The Romans discovered that celery’s unique taste made it the ideal vegetable for seasoning food.  Centuries on, the French were to name it, along with the onion and the carrot, the perfect seasoning trio, the mire-poix. A mire-poix is really just the chopped-up ensemble of the three vegetables — sweated, simmered or stewed. It’s used as the base for innumerable dishes, whether in stocks, stews, casseroles or sauces. So versatile!

From this era of culinary genius, celery’s fame went from strength to strength. A simple stick of celery was later to become a prerequisite for the perfect Bloody Mary, along with a sprinkling of its salt in the tomato juice mix. The famous Waldorf salad calls for celery along with walnuts and apples.Celery

Even the celery leaves are really lovely chopped in a salad in the same way that you might use flat-leaf parsley, interspersed with other salad leaves. Waste not, want not!

Celery is of interest to medical scientists researching pthalide. This active compound found in celery is thought to relax the muscles of the arteries and help regulate blood pressure. Dilated vessels give more space for the blood to flow, decreasing pressure. In China celery juice is often proclaimed as a natural tonic to help lower blood pressure but perhaps its benefits may also be due to celery being a source of potassium.

In the meantime here are some ways to include and enjoy celery. And you don’t have to worry one bit about the calories lucking in this vegetable – there’s just 6 calories in a portion!

  • Enjoy peanut butter on celery stalks for a crunchy snack
  • Use celery leaves in salads.
  • Next time you are making fresh squeezed carrot juice give it a unique taste dimension by adding some celery to it.
  • Add celery leaves and sliced celery stalks to soups, stews, casseroles, and healthy stir fries.
  • Don’t forget that wonderful combo of celery, apple and walnut in Waldorf salad.
Nutrition per portion (80g) Calories Fat (g) Sat Fat (g) Sugars (g) Fibre (g) Salt (g) Other
Celery 6 0.2 0 0.7 0.9 0.1 Source of potassium (320mg)